Building sandcastles on the beach or dipping your feet in the salty sea water – that’s probably the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of sand. And those precious childhood memories might come crashing down (just like the sandcastles!) if you were told that we are now facing a sand crisis on our planet.
What? Sand? Really?
“There’s more to sand than meets the eye”, writes Kiran Periera, author of Sand Stories.
One of the 21st Century’s most important, but least appreciated, commodities: ordinary sand; has become the backbone of our society. It is the primary raw material that modern cities are made from.
The concrete used to construct shopping malls, offices, and apartment blocks, along with the asphalt we use to build roads connecting them, are largely just sand and gravel glued together. The glass in every window, windshield, and smartphone screen is made of melted-down sand. Even the silicon chips inside our phones and computers – along with virtually every other piece of electronic equipment in your home – are made from sand.
Sand is the most-consumed natural resource on the planet besides water.
So Where is the Problem Exactly?
Even though our planet is covered in sand - huge deserts from the Sahara to Arizona that have billowing dunes of the sand and beaches on coastlines around the world lined with it - believe it or not, the world is indeed facing a shortage of sand.
How can we possibly be running low on a substance found in virtually every country on earth and that seems essentially limitless?
The problem lies in the type of sand we are using. Desert sand is largely useless to us. The overwhelming bulk of the sand we harvest goes to make concrete, and for that purpose, desert sand grains are the wrong shape. Eroded by wind rather than water, they are too smooth and rounded to lock together to form stable concrete.
The sand we need is the more angular stuff found in the beds, banks, and floodplains of rivers, as well as in lakes and on the seashore. The demand for that material is so intense that around the world, riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, and farmlands and forests torn up to get at the precious grains. And in a growing number of countries, criminal gangs have moved into the trade, spawning an often lethal black market in sand.
How Much Time Before We Run Out of it?
The sand we use today will likely not be replaced in our lifetime nor that of our children. But the more sand we extract from ecosystems today, the more impoverished a world we leave behind for future generations and our precious biodiversity.
The main driver of this crisis is breakneck urbanization. Every year there are more and more people on the planet, with an ever-growing number of them moving from the rural countryside into cities.
But sand isn’t only used for buildings and infrastructure – increasingly, it is also used to manufacture the very land beneath our feet. From California to Hong Kong, powerful dredging ships suck up millions of tons of sand from the sea floor each year, piling it up in coastal areas to create land where there was none before. This doing irreparable damage to the fragile marine eco system.
Book Club Review with Author of Sand Stories
Join Green Initiatives with Kiran Periera, author of Sand Stories, as she shares insights and chilling facts about the sand mining industry around the world and the damage it is doing to our planet.
Learn not just about the problems, but also about the solutions out there and what people around the world are doing to save this precious natural resource.
Scan below QR code or visit this link to register for the event.
Note: this is an online event and the author will join us via Zoom call from London. Call details will be sent via email 1-2 hours before the session.
About the Author
Kiran is the Founder & Chief Storyteller at SandStories.org.
She obtained her Master's degree in Geography (Environment & Development) at King's College, London and Sand mining was the focus of her dissertation and been working on the subject ever since.
Kiran was born and raised in India where she witnessed the impacts of indiscriminate sand extraction and it relates to some of her earliest memories. She came to the UK 10 years ago to pursue a Master's degree in Geography (Environment & Development) at King's College, London.
Sand mining was the focus of Kiran's dissertation and she has worked on the subject ever since, launching her blog, www.sandstories.org, which works to create awareness about the urgent need to manage our consumption of sand as a resource. It aims to bridge the gap between science, policy and industry by identifying and promoting potential solutions to the looming sand crisis.